Yang’s Fried Dumplings
Deep-fried, starchy and dripping with fat, shengjianbao is one of Shanghai’s most beloved breakfast staples for good reason. Its most famous purveyor, Yang’s Fried Dumplings (Chinese name: Xiao Yang Shengjian Guan), has gone from unassuming street stall that opened in 1994 to a still unassuming but now ubiquitous city-wide chain. Along with the classic pork, Yang’s continues to roll out new flavors like shrimp, shepherd’s purse and crawdad. Though available in most mall and airport food courts, Yang’s is best enjoyed at its early location on the street-food street Huanghe Lu, where it can be paired with xiaolongbao from Jiajia Tangbao across the way.
BTW: Bite a hole in the top and sip out some of the broth before biting in to avoid being splattered with scalding pork fat.
97 Huanghe Lu, Huangpu District, Shanghai, China
Although Shanghai is thick with fancy, boozy weekend brunches, only a few spots serve Western breakfast all week. This flagship of a local chain, started by a French-Israeli baker and now with two locations, opens at 8 a.m. daily and creates some of the best and most varied breads in the city. Specialties include shakshuka and sourdough, a Shanghai rarity.
BTW: Dogs are welcome in the patio seating area, turning busy weekends into a neighborhood puppy parade.
500 Xiangyang Nan Lu, Xuhui District, Shanghai, China
This hole-in-the-wall, one-room restaurant serves a small menu of Shanghai classics with seasonal ingredients. Shanghai has a handful of these sifang cai, or private-room-cooking, restaurants, with small kitchens and one or two rooms serving and eating family-style bengbucai, or local cuisine. Try the caotou, or greens called toothed bur clover cooked in Chinese wine; the xiefendan, egg with crab; and the xiangyou shansi, fried eel strips. Named for Shanghai’s oldest theater nearby, Lanxin has been in operation here since 1987 and now has three more branches in the suburbs.
BTW: Have your hotel concierge, or a Mandarin-speaking friend, call to reserve seats at this popular but tiny spot.
130 Jinxian Rd, Huangpu Qu, Shanghai Shi, China
Godly Vegetarian Restaurant
Located on a quiet stretch just blocks from the bustle of Fergeson Lane and Anfu Lu, Godly (Chinese name: Gongdelin) is a Buddhist vegan restaurant serving both vegetarian Chinese classics as well as creative imitation meats. Most popular dishes from the bilingual menu include wontons, the vegan cold “duck” and the vegan yuxiangrousi. Gongdelin is a China-wide chain with a score of Shanghai outlets owned by Quanjude Roast Duck, but this particular outpost is a family franchise with a personal touch. There is also a Gongdelin tea shop selling packaged snacks two blocks east on Wuyuan.
BTW: In addition to its interior, done in traditional noodle-shop decor, Godly has a lovely garden seating out back. These are Buddhists who serve beer, making for a very pleasant place for an al fresco afternoon (or evening) drink.
303 Wuyuan Lu, Xuhui District, Shanghai, China
This unassuming gem, on the first floor of an old lane house across from Xujiahui Park, serves Shanghainese family dishes. It’s a friendly mom-and-pop operation — the owners live upstairs, and some of the chefs have worked there for decades. Meaning “little white birch,” Xiaobaihua has specials including the tofu-and-wild-herb cold dish malantou, the zuiji drunken chicken, the shizitou pork meatballs on bok choy, the xunyu smoked fish and the suanxiang chengzi garlic-drenched razor clams. Book ahead.
BTW: The xiandan huangnangua — or pumpkin coated in salty preserved egg, then fried — is a healthier take on the french fry and is unique to Xiaobaihua.
Wanping Lu, Lane 299, No 3, Shanghai, China
Cheerful and bustling Lotus Eatery serves up the flavors of Yunnan province but without the tourist glitz and steep prices of trendier establishments. Snag a patio table if the weather allows. You cannot go wrong here, and the bilingual menu with pictures is a bonus, but favorites include the mashed potatoes and any of the wild-mushroom dishes.
BTW: The thick slices of fried goat cheese are as delicious here as anywhere, but Lotus Eatery has a second version, jiaoyan rushan, of very thin pieces of fried goat cheese. They resemble chips and are utter heaven.
1112 Dingxi Lu, Changning District, Shanghai
Shanghai hasn’t been quite the same since beloved bunker of sound the Shelter closed in 2016, but the same team behind that underground institution rebounded with All. Though smaller and more polished than the underground original, All continues to showcase leading local and international DJs, drawing the city’s alternative sorts to its dance floor. One floor up is the popular dive bar Perry’s, which serves cheap Western pub grub for peckish clubbers.
BTW: This club continues its predecessor’s long-standing community bona fides, hosting a range of parties and events from album launches to conceptual dance performances by local troupe Slate Contemporary.
2/F, 17 Xiangyang Bei Lu
Shanghai’s best place to sober up, or to fuel up for more partying, is the wildly popular Cha’s. It serves top-notch classic Hong Kong diner-style dishes, or cha chaan teng, in two locations re-creating the city of the 1960s in meticulous detail. Hong Kong film producer Charlie Hau Kit-Fai launched this Sinan Lu original location in 2009, expanding to three locations today. The set menu of things like instant noodles with Spam offers bang for buck, and the milk tea and pineapple butter buns rival any in Hong Kong. Regular dishes from the extensive menu also satisfy, such as the luohan vegan fried noodles and the shrimp fried egg.
BTW: Cha’s is busy from its 11 a.m. opening to 2 a.m. closing and packs multiple groups into each table. You’ll get seated and fed much sooner with a smaller group.
30 Sinan Lu, Huangpu District, Shanghai